Downloadable content and microtransactions are nothing new to video games. The last generation established the trend and it seem here to stay with the AAA industry. DLC is a good concept in theory, but publishers have massively abused it. Microtransactions are far more sinister, their only purpose being as a moneymaker; basically, a pay-to-win system, paying money to get better loot drops and the like.
DLC is often developed alongside the game, so there should be no excuse for this content not to appear in the original game. Game design choices are made with the purpose of steering players toward paying for DLC and microtransactions. Such strategies are intended to foster a “haves vs. have nots” culture in games that utilize paid features. An unhealthy relationship between game and gamer is thus created. These practices are commonly found in free-to play-games, with $60 games costing exponentially more than the initial price tag. DLC and microtransactions are anti-consumer and this excess in the AAA industry needs to be curtailed.
What’s The Big Idea?
DLC is often developed alongside the game and is usually available day one of release or even on disc. It’s like paying full price for a pizza but finding only two-thirds of the slices in the box, forcing you to fork out for each of the remaining slices. Would you be thrilled about that? You absolutely wouldn’t, so why let video game publishers get away with it?
Developers are purposely omitting content to extort even more money out of gamers. One of the most egregious examples of this is when Capcom released Street Fighter IV with on-disc DLC. This felt like a big “fuck you” to those who bought the game. Oh, you want access to the entire game that you paid $60 to get? Well screw you, it’s locked behind a paywall.
A recent trend is the release of season passes as DLC, with these bundles often costing more than $20 each. With multiple season passes released, it can become very costly to play the “entire” game. Look what Bethesda did with Fallout 4 — a $50 season pass! What kind of price gauging shit is that? In a perfect world, DLC would be developed after the game is released, providing additional content to a complete game. Unfortunately, the AAA games industry continues to churn out unfinished games and make us pay more to play the finished product. It leads to game design decisions centered around DLC and microtransactions.
Is It No More Than A Sinister Ploy?
One of the obvious problems caused by DLC and microtransactions is that they affect game design decisions, especially when it comes to the latter. Blizzard is notorious for implementing frustrating designs to take as much money from players as possible.
Overwatch is another such attempt on Blizzard’s part. Despite this team-based multiplayer FPS being well-received, Blizzard uses sinister microtransactions that ultimately hurt the experience. The loot drop system is broken. You can get loot boxes in game without using real-world money, but the rate of getting new stuff is frustrating. Don’t worry, Blizzard set up a shop in which you pay real money to obtain more loot boxes. It’s still randomized, so you will probably still get crap. But hey, at least you have the opportunity spend your cash.
Ubisoft’s recent release For Honor uses similar manipulative tactics. Steel is For Honor’s in game currency. According to PC Gamer, it would take 91,500 steel to unlock every customization item in the game. If you want to unlock everything the game has to offer, that’s 1,098,000 steel. Ubisoft made it difficult and time consuming to grind up for more steel, with it likely to take you many years of playing For Honor to get everything. Thank you, Ubisoft. Developers are purposely making drop rates frustrating, strong-arming gamers into paying real-world money.
The Haves Vs. Haves Nots
Many of you may say, “It’s only cosmetic so it doesn’t matter.” Oh, to be young and naive. Cosmetics are an important part of gaming. If cosmetics didn’t matter, then AAA publishers wouldn’t be constantly touting their advanced graphics. Not to get all Karl Marx on you, but microtransactions are intended to foster a “haves vs. the have nots” mentality among us. Developers and publishers are using psychological manipulation to make gamers pay the price. You see a player that has a rare weapon or costume and say to yourself, “Gee, that looks really cool, how can I get that?” It puts the idea in your head that paying a few dollars wouldn’t hurt.
Soon you’ve spent well over $100. Of course, developers will claim this is not the case. Again using the example of For Honor, Ubisoft claims you’re not supposed to unlock everything in a game. Talk about being stunningly full of shit. If publishers didn’t want you to pay for these microtransactions, then they wouldn’t put them there in the first place. Paying for anti-consumer practices enables publishers to push even further. Punish corporations that use such tactics by smacking them on the nose with a newspaper, like a dog that peed on the floor. Tell them no more.
These tactics create an unhealthy relationship between game and gamer. World of Warcraft was infamous in its function more as a drug than a game. People played the game to get their fix and Blizzard’s subscription style forced gamers to cough up more money to get that fix. All paid subscription MMOs function like this.
Other publishers have applied many of Blizzard’s schemes to games that shouldn’t have them in the first place. When will publishers learn that they can treat us with respect and still make money? Why should they feel the need to show blatant disregard for customers? AAA publishers insult our intelligence at every turn and get away with it. Gamers buy the games and give in to the demands of publishers. Paying for DLC and microtransactions enables this behavior. In today’s gaming culture, distrust between publishers and gamers is rampant. Something must be done to stop this.
Many of these microtransaction and DLC schemes are used in free-to-play games, but it seems the AAA industry has applied these strategies to $60 games. I can forgive DLC as it is a onetime fee for additional content, but microtransactions are constant. While they are small fees, they are repeated and add up over time. Companies need to turn a profit, but when a $60 game ends up costing several hundred dollars when you factor in DLC and microtransactions, it becomes apparent that it’s nothing but a ripoff for content that used to be “unlockables.”
DLC and microtransactions have infiltrated most major releases. If the industry doesn’t reel in the rampant and reckless greed, a crash could be around the corner. Please rethink your DLC and microtransactions strategies. Let’s bring trust back to the industry.
What are your opinions on DLC and microstransations. Sound off in the comments section below.
Previously published on NowLoading.co